Client: English Heritage / Hadrian's Cavalry
Location: Chesters Roman Fort, Nothumberland
Status: Completed 2017
Engineers: Elliott Wood
Photography: Lightly Frozen
Chesters Roman Fort today is a tranquil and beautiful place set in a quintessential English landscape where pasture and woodland flank the wide North Tyne. Around 1,600 years ago, it was a different atmosphere entirely. Imagine a group of Roman cavalrymen galloping down the valley side and then slowing to trot over a stone bridge before entering the fort's gate. Inside Chesters was a place teeming with life. It was noisy, smelly and almost bursting as 500 men and horses found accommodation within its rectangular footprint.
It can be difficult to make a connection between the preserved walls of the Roman cavalry fort (the most extensive in Britain) and the powerful mounted troops based here.
“Cavalry 360°” is a vast site specific musical instrument which uses the force of the wind to create the sound of the cavalry moving across the landscape beyond. The piece creates an equine soundscape as a means of evoking the imagination of the viewer to fill in the gaps.
The artwork is arranged in a circular form to allow people to step into the work and look out through framed views of the fort and landscape. The experience is designed around emphasising the way the horse changed our ability to travel greater distances, and at greater speeds than ever before. The circular form creates an experience much like being in a room with a surround sound stereo system where the soundscape is constantly altering in direction and rhythm.
Cavalry 360° uses a unique mechanism that converts a rotational wind powered motion into the sound of horse’s hooves hitting the ground. The sound is created by beaters being flicked against a wooden block in a rhythmic fashion. As the wind speed increases, the horses sound like they are moving from a trot up to a gallop. As the wind shifts in direction, different wind catchers are activated giving the sense of the horses moving around the landscape.
The instrument comprises of 32 frame units, each of which holds a wind catching turbine and 15 beaters. Each beater represents a single horse in the cavalry with the total number of beaters representing the whole 500 horse Cavalry that used to live on site. The frame units are visually paired to represent a Turma which is comprised of 30 horses. Each wind catching turbine has 3 arms each with a large cup on the end, the rotating turbine is designed to visually suggest the movement of horses’ hooves.